Photograph of the week: Venice, Italy

The Floating City. City of Canals. La Serenissima. Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, goes by all these names. Built on 118 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, with no roads to get around, only canals, Venice is unquestionably one of Italy’s most picturesque cities. Indeed, the world’s. With its 177 winding canals, striking architecture, romantic gondolas taking the place of cars, and 417 beautiful bridges, this is a city built for romance, whimsy, and picture-perfect memories.

Photo of the week: Venice, Italy

There is far, far more to Venice, though, than Instagrammable marriage proposal opportunities.

Like the fact that Venice is not built directly on the land of those 118 islands, but on wooden stilts, made up of millions of petrified logs driven into the ground. These logs are primarily sourced from Alder trees, a wood known for its water resistance, and were brought to Venice by boat from other countries such as Slovenia and Croatia.

Or the fact that it is home to one of the narrowest streets in the world: Calletta Varisco is just 53cm wide in parts.

It is also home to 450 Renaissance and Gothic palaces, most of which line the Grand Canal, Venice’s S-shaped main thoroughfare. Included in this number is the cursed Renaissance Palazzo, Ca’Dario: the series of unexplainable deaths which seem to affect all of Ca’Dario’s inhabitants started with its very first owner when the structure was built in 1487. Its latest victim? John Entwistle, famed bass guitarist of The Who, who was leasing Ca’Dario at the time of his death in 2002.

And then there’s the fact that Venice is sinking at the rate of 1-2 millimeters a year. Due to both natural causes, such as the shifting of the Adriatic plates upon which Venice sits, and man-made causes, such as the continued extraction of water from the city over the past century, attempts are being made to counteract this sinking. An engineering project to create moveable barriers that will stop the city flooding when tides rise 9cm or more above regular height is currently being floated, so to speak.

All these interesting facts aside, there can be no denying that Venice, first and foremost, remains firmly entrenched in the minds, and hearts of travellers as a city of romance. (A view certainly helped along by the fact that famed playwright and lover Giacomo Casanova hails from here.) There’s just something about those canals, and travelling by gondola, that screams romance. Something which Venetian folklore certainly plays into: they say that if a couple in a gondola kiss as they pass underneath each of the city’s 417 bridges they will remain in love forever.

Speaking of which, you can’t visit Venice and not take a trip in a Gondola – whether you’re coupled up or not. For one thing, they are practically the only form of transport allowed in the city: aside from no cars, skateboards, roller skates and bikes are also banned from use in the city. For another, not riding a gondola would be akin to going to Paris and ignoring the Eiffel Tower. Going to Agra in India and ignoring the Taj Mahal. Going to Rome and ignoring the Colosseum.

Used as transport around the narrow Venetian waterways for more than 10 centuries, there are currently around 350 of these traditional boats at work on Venice’s canals. In another interesting Venice fact, only 3 to 4 gondolier licenses are issued annually, and there are only 400 licensed gondolas operating in Venice today (only one of which is a woman).

Final fact to know before you go? If you want to see the real Venice, with real people living there, go soon. Aside from the sinking issue, the population of Venice has decreased from 120,000 to 60,000 in the last 50 years and some experts believe Venice could be a ghost town by 2030 with only tourists visiting by day.

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Comments (9)

  1. Ellen says:

    What a great colourful photograph! I’m not saying that my photos are anywhere near as good but for a skilled photographer there are lots of great shots available during the carnival. People wear some old costumes going back to centuries ago. Also in February it can be a bit misty too so you can snap some really atmospheric shots.

  2. John says:

    I worry that increasingly Venice is becoming known as “The Flooding City” rather than “The Floating City.” It is so sad that corruption and politics are preventing a solution to the problem, meaning that every year Venice is becoming more threatened by the waters.

  3. Kenny Ralph says:

    Only 3 or 4 gondolier licenses issued annually? I remember reading a piece on A Luxury Travel Blog about all the training required to qualify but I didn’t know that it was such a small number who got through each year. With 417 bridges even learning your way around the canals must take some remembering.

  4. Abbie Hurst says:

    I’ve been to Venice three times and loved it but I learnt so much from reading this piece. I know it’s supposed to be based on the photograph but this post is dense with info. There’s far more in here than many a so-called travel website and way more useful stuff than many expensive guide books. If you could keep up this quality it would be brilliant to have more city guides like this.

  5. Kelly Portman says:

    There is such a romantic appeal about Italy, I agree. Gondolas seem to be like the UK equivalent of seeing Big Ben and the London Bridge. It would be such a shame to not take a ride in one if you get to Venice I think. But as you say, there’s so much more so it than romantic notions and gondolas. I’ve never been but I definitely want to one day. Gorgeous photo. Looks kind of like an oil painting. Love how colourful the buildings are and how silky the water looks.

  6. Jennifer says:

    It really is a romantic place, I get that feeling after seeing the picture and reading these words. It’s also pretty wild to think that many people won’t be living there within my lifetime. Still, I really hope to visit there sometime soon.

  7. Victor Louis says:

    I love visiting Venice. I have been there twice already but after reading this blog I feel that I may have missed quite a lot. I shall be planning a visit again, could you please suggest some activities that I can try during my trip to Venice?

    • Paul Johnson says:

      What things have you already done there on your previous visits, Victor?

    • Victor Louis says:

      My last visit to Venice in February 2019 was an extremely memorable one. The 2 days I spent there was absolute bliss as I visited the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square. However, I missed taking a ride in the infamous gondolas as I wanted to spend a day attending the Venice Carnival. But I shall be returning in early 2021 and I wish to explore more offbeat places this time and of course, enjoy a Gondola ride.

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